Dealing with Failure

by Helmy Sa'at

It is very easy to fall into the pits of frustration and disappointment which could then send one spiralling into the abyss of depression when encountering setbacks. However, in our quest for attaining success (insert your goals, wants and desires here), at times we need to be reminded out loud that striving for success does not equate to a journey with no heartache and pain.

Life is akin to the waves out at sea which is filled with crests and troughs reflective of the delicate balance between success and failure. Setbacks encompass anything and everything from the very minute to seismic life choices that could ultimately alter your life direction and put its meaning, and by extension existence, into question.

Failure comes in all shapes and sizes, nothing is too trivial. From being overlooked for that promotion at work, mounting debts due to unemployment, getting a divorce, not scoring a perfect score for a test, spending insufficient quality time with loved ones to something as simple as breaking a promise to bring your child to the amusement park over the weekend due to overwhelming work commitments. 

We have all been there. Either some of us are still going through such difficult circumstances or we know someone who is trapped in such a tricky situation. So remember this, always: You are definitely not alone.

Oft-repeated Cliches

How often have we heard the following? 

“Suck it up and move on.”

“Just keep trying!”

“God has a different plan for you. You just need to pray more often and leave the rest to Him.”

However well-intentioned such words are, they do not help in reality. As a matter of fact, you might be guilty in articulating and repeating such remarks to a friend, and subconsciously, even to yourself! It might seem comforting or commonsensical at first glance; however, the ambiguity compounded by the tremendous lack of empathy and sensitivity are glaring. 

Yes, there is merit in saying and understanding that setbacks are essentially Allah’s doing. Deprivations of worldly success in whatever shape and form could serve as a reminder to realise and acknowledge your errors and reform. Thus, it is a blessing in actuality! However, when articulated without proper care, it could be deemed as condescension and worst, heaping and amplifying the scope of existing sadness instead of providing comfort.

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What Should I Do?

Simple. Two things. 

First and foremost, stop uttering such unhelpful remarks to anyone, including yourself when confronted by, and dealing with failure. 

Next, stop listening to such vague, damaging ‘advice’. 

Reframing Understanding Of Failure

Yes, any setback is dictated by Allah. As we reflect on our path moving forward, never forget that we are bound in the belief of destiny (taqdir) and trust in Allah (tawakkul). 

Do you choose to rant at Allah in moments of weakness, or do you seek closer guidance?

For instance, our failures in life are not limited to relationships with those around us. Mankind has for centuries gambled with climate catastrophe in the pursuit of progress and success at the expense of his and her duty as trustees and protectors of Earth. Similar to the balance between success and failure; in flipping the coin which lands either on the obverse or reverse, do you choose effort or surrender to inaction in the face of adversity? 

Is giving up by curling into the fetal position in the corner of a room while humming to yourself as a distraction an option?

Setbacks do not negate effort to change for the better and resolve any hardships. Pair your prayers with action and consistent effort.

Ibn ‘Abbas narrated:

حَدَّثَنَا أَحْمَدُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ مُوسَى، أَخْبَرَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ الْمُبَارَكِ، أَخْبَرَنَا لَيْثُ بْنُ سَعْدٍ، وَابْنُ، لَهِيعَةَ عَنْ قَيْسِ بْنِ الْحَجَّاجِ، قَالَ وَحَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، أَخْبَرَنَا أَبُو الْوَلِيدِ، حَدَّثَنَا لَيْثُ بْنُ سَعْدٍ، حَدَّثَنِي قَيْسُ بْنُ الْحَجَّاجِ الْمَعْنَى، وَاحِدٌ، عَنْ حَنَشٍ الصَّنْعَانِيِّ، عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ، قَالَ كُنْتُ خَلْفَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَوْمًا فَقَالَ ‏ “‏ يَا غُلاَمُ إِنِّي أُعَلِّمُكَ كَلِمَاتٍ احْفَظِ اللَّهَ يَحْفَظْكَ احْفَظِ اللَّهَ تَجِدْهُ تُجَاهَكَ إِذَا سَأَلْتَ فَاسْأَلِ اللَّهَ وَإِذَا اسْتَعَنْتَ فَاسْتَعِنْ بِاللَّهِ وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ الأُمَّةَ لَوِ اجْتَمَعَتْ عَلَى أَنْ يَنْفَعُوكَ بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَنْفَعُوكَ إِلاَّ بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ لَكَ وَلَوِ اجْتَمَعُوا عَلَى أَنْ يَضُرُّوكَ بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَضُرُّوكَ إِلاَّ بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكَ رُفِعَتِ الأَقْلاَمُ وَجَفَّتِ الصُّحُفُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ ‏.‏

Ibn ‘Abbas narrated: “I was behind the Prophet ﷺ one day when he said: ‘O boy! I will teach you a statement: Be mindful of Allah and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him before you. When you ask, ask Allah, and when you seek aid, seek Allah’s aid. Know that if the entire creation were to gather together to do something to benefit you – you would never get any benefit except that Allah had written for you. And if they were to gather to do something to harm you- you would never be harmed except that Allah had written for you. The pens are lifted and the pages are dried.'”

[Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2516]

وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ ۚ وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُۥٓ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بَـٰلِغُ أَمْرِهِۦ ۚ قَدْ جَعَلَ ٱللَّهُ لِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدْرًا

And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.

[Surah At-Talaq 65:3]

At the same time, patience & gratitude should be cultivated instead of resentment since any setback is an opportunity for reflection. 

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It Will Get Better

Any hardship and setback would definitely be mentally and emotionally, even physically at times, difficult to bear. It might be hard to overcome and it feels like an insurmountable mountain; however, it is vital to realise that such painful circumstances are also an opportunity to reconnect with yourself, loved ones, Allah and even the planet in setting a redirection in your life. 

Now, take a deep breath; clear your mind. You are more than ready to move forward and overcome this temporary failure. The bigger failure is in not trying at all. You owe it to yourself to try.

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7 Comments

  1. Baboo Dada

    Subhanallh what beautiful inspiring message May The Almighty Allah Grant The person that put this beautiful inspiring message together Long Life and Good Health Inshaallah Ameen Ya Rabaul Alemeen

    Reply
  2. Suhaila Alahmed

    Excellent
    Lifted my spirit

    Reply
  3. Eric Watkins

    That was great advice for me for the simple fact that I have experience some setbacks recently and it was good to be reminded of Allahs plans for me and to reconnect with my feelings and family but, most importantly myself.

    Reply
  4. Saba

    Alhamdulillah getting to read this beautifully written article right now is enough reassurance for me to surrender to allah & staying steadfast in my hopes & efforts of getting better for him
    Jazakallah khair
    Saba

    Reply
  5. Sana

    Alhamdulillah getting to read this beautifully written article right now is enough reassurance for me to surrender to Allah & staying steadfast in my hopes & efforts of getting better for Him
    Jazakallah khair
    Saba

    Reply
  6. Suweibatu

    Beautiful and inspiring article . I read after fajr prayers and it made the day already . Deals with the issue to the core . May Allah bless the writer and guide us to the right path, Aameen .

    Reply
  7. Saleha

    This is so sensible, well rounded and beautifully written piece. Thanks so much.

    Reply

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